KING SOLOMON’S MINES
(directors: Compton Bennett/Andrew Marton; screenwriters: Helen Deutsch/from book by H. Rider Haggard; cinematographer: Robert Surtees; editor: Ralph Winters; cast: Stewart Granger (Allan Quartermain), Deborah Kerr (Elizabeth Curtis), Richard Carlson (Jack Goode), Hugo Haas (Van Brun Smith), Lowell Gilmore (Eric Masters), Kimursi (Khiva), Corp. Munto Anampio (Chief Bilu), Siriaque (Umbopa), Sekaryongo (Chief Gagool), Baziga (King Twala); Runtime: 102; MGM; 1950)
“MGM’s elegant remake of the superior 1937 version.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
MGM’s elegant remake of the superior 1937 version of the British adventure film King Solomon’s Mines, features Stewart Granger as the intrepid safari guide Alan Quartermaine and Deborah Kerr as the wealthy English woman, Elizabeth Curtis, who is looking for her missing husband. Richard Carlson is Elizabeth’s loyal brother Jack, who accompanies her to Africa in 1897. Elizabeth’s husband is missing since going to Africa five years ago to search for a secret legendary diamond mine. The only clue they have to his whereabouts is a map he sent them.
Quartermaine is the best safari guide in Africa but he has been at it for far too long, and wishes to go back to England. His wife died six years ago and he has a son in England, whom he wishes to see again. He is fed up with taking rich people out on safaris and therefore turns down the sibling’s request to locate Henry Curtis. He tells them that it is too dangerous, they will have to go to an unexplored land where no white man has been before. There is also an unfriendly savage tribe there, one that even the local tribes avoid. But Elizabeth offers him a more than generous $5,000 pounds up front to be the guide. He coldly tells her that she has bought his services as a mercenary, that this is more money than he can earn in a lifetime; and, that even though he thinks there’s little chance of succeeding, he doesn’t care if he lives or dies, at least, his son will get the money. She promises him an extra five hundred pounds if they are successful.
Quartermaine questions Elizabeth’s reasons for coming here, surmising that she has an ulterior motive. But she tells him that she is independently wealthy and is only going because she loves her husband. The film is grandiose and colorfully shot, seeming much like a travelog. When it dwells on the trek’s hardships: fighting the oppressive heat, the centipedes, snakes and various bugs they are bothered by, the dangerous animals attacking them, a stampede of various beasts including zebras and giraffes they have to take cover from and the many obstacles the rescuers come across in the jungle — the film is simply a beautiful spectacle to behold. The story bogs down when it becomes too much about the dependable Quartermaine and the fetching redhead Elizabeth going through a love/hate relationship, where they eventually give way to their predictable feelings of love. Elizabeth will then confess to her brother that she never loved her husband and has come looking for him because of the guilt she has, knowing that he left her for the diamond mine because she treated him unkindly.
The story picks up some life when a lone 7-foot, taciturn Watusi tribesmen (Siriaque) asks to join the group and it turns out that he is a king returning to his native land to reclaim the kingdom from a usurper. Before entering hostile territory the bearers desert the safari, stealing most of the supplies. The only remaining natives are the loyal Khiva (Kimursi) and the purposeful Siriaque.
The group enters a hostile village, where there is a white man (Hugo Haas) who gives them a false name. It turns out that Quartermaine recognizes him as a murderer wanted by the police and figures he plans to have the natives cannibalize them. By getting the drop on him, the Quartermaine party escapes the hostile village but not before they lose Khiva.
After much hardship, the seekers come to the land where the diamond mine is and where the king has come to reclaim his throne. The bad king will take them to the mine and there they will see the bones of Henry. But they are trapped in the mine and have to figure a way out to survive. When they do get out, they watch as the two kings fight to see who will be the legitimate king. The original film had a more ironical and less standard ending than this version. But this is a highly appetizing film and a more attractive one to view. Granger gives a commanding macho performance. The vistas are delightfully magnificent, which should be enough of a reason for seeing this version also.
REVIEWED ON 3/23/2000 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/